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Superstruct buys into Flow Festival Finland

James Barton-led festival owner/operator Superstruct Entertainment has expanded into Finland by acquiring a stake in leading music and arts event Flow Festival. Terms of the deal, described as an investment and partnership agreement, were not disclosed.

The partnership marks the fourth such deal for Superstruct – led by Creamfields founder Barton and backed by private-equity firm Providence Equity Partners – in 2018, following August’s investment in Øya Festival in NorwayMay’s acquisition of Sónar festival in Barcelona and February’s investment in Spanish promoter Elrow.

The company also owns 70% of Sziget festival in Hungary, which it acquired in January 2017.

“This is a great development for Superstruct and consistent with our strategy of partnering with outstanding live music and arts festivals in Europe,” comments Barton, Superstruct’s CEO.

“We want to ensure Flow is able to offer the highest-quality experience”

“We have been big fans of the Flow Festival for a number of years now and look forward to supporting the experienced management team solidify its market-leading position in Finland.”

Flow execs Tuomas Kallio, chairman of the board and artistic director, Suvi Kallio, managing director, and Toni Rantanen, artistic director of electronic music, will continue to lead Flow Festival Oy, the company behind the festival, and remain shareholders.

More than 80,000 people attended Flow Festival 2018, held in the post-industrial Suvilahti area of Helsinki, to see acts including Kendrick Lamar, Arctic Monkeys, Lykke Li, Lauryn Hill, Bonobo, Alma, Patti Smith, St Vincent, Fleet Foxes and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

“Given the accelerating global competition, we want to ensure Flow is able to offer the highest-quality experience,” adds Kallio. “By partnering with Superstruct, we will be able to not only improve our existing event in Finland – including continued development of the Suvilahti event area – but simultaneously collaborate with a chain of quality events.”

 


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What makes a successful touring exhibition?

These past few years, the family entertainment industry has seen a significant rise in the popularity of touring exhibitions. These travelling edutainment concepts are far removed from traditional museum exhibitions where visitors merely observe original artworks and read the accompanying information.

Whether it’s the intriguing life of an artist or a showcase for a popular movie, the public increasingly expects to be able to experience content by means of innovative technologies, rather than to just look and learn. As the line between entertainment and traditional museum exhibitions seems to be fading more and more, contemporary touring exhibitions are being continually developed, and the question arises: what makes a touring exhibition successful?

A new way of presenting iconic brands
Especially when it comes to museums, some would say that the only successful touring exhibitions are the ones that present “original artefacts”. I dare to question this.

Take the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, for example. The museum is recognised as the world’s leading authority on the life and work of Vincent van Gogh, and engages millions of visitors each year. Although the interest in Van Gogh’s original paintings remains undiminished, the museum has recognised a growing public demand to experience arts and culture in a contemporary way. By combining the expertise of the museum with techniques commonly employed in the entertainment industry, the museum has transformed the story of Vincent van Gogh into the touring Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience.

Although the museum owns the largest collection of original artworks by Vincent van Gogh, they chose not to present them in the tour. Instead, they created a multi-sensory interactive exhibition inspired by Van Gogh’s artwork and letters, bridging the traditional gap between entertainment and high art, and making art accessible to a broader audience. Not only for the traditional museum visitor, but also for families and so-called “digital nomads”.

It’s not a secret that successful brands sell, and that counts for touring exhibitions as well. The strong branding of the internationally acclaimed Van Gogh Museum assures visitors that they will receive the authentic story from a well-respected source.

Another example of a touring exhibition created around a successful brand is Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick. Sawaya presents the iconic Lego bricks in a way that is both new and entertaining, while maintaining the authenticity of the Lego brand itself. Both these exhibitions show that by reinterpreting a well-recognised brand in an authentic and innovative way, you can open up the market for new audiences.

“These low-cost exhibitions will burn up the market for us all”

Production values
In my experience on the production side of touring exhibitions, I’ve seen a lot of variation in quality when it comes to exhibition sets. Too often a production kit contains only a few video projectors, ragged text panels, and a worn out light and walling system. As a result, presenters need to invest heavily to get the production to the right level of quality. Bigger is not always better, but it’s all about applying enough resources in a smart, creative way. The end result should be a turnkey set that adds substantial value to both the presenter’s operation and the perceived visitor experience.

The industry threat: copycats
Unfortunately, too often when high-quality exhibitions become successful, copycats emerge. Some promoters choose a low-quality version mainly for financial reasons. I see this as a big threat for this fast-growing market segment. Visitors are often buying an expensive ticket for an exhibition that takes just 30 minutes to walk through, or that doesn’t contain the story or brand that is expected. As a result, they are disappointed and may not visit a similar exhibition again. There are, for example, various Da Vinci, dino, and space exhibitions, but only a few are authentic, have high production values, and are supported by a well-known brand. These low-cost exhibitions will burn up the market for us all.

All in
In my opinion, the touring exhibitions market can only be successful if promoters consistently opt for brand and production values above price, and I think this proves to be the biggest challenge. If you aim to be successful and want to attract a large number of visitors on a consistent basis, there’s no cutting corners. The discussion is not about whether original artefacts need to be presented or not, it’s about telling the authentic story in an appropriate way by using the original brand; having high-quality production values; and engaging visitors with the use of innovative technologies.

Quality comes with a price, and promoters must go ‘all in’ to ensure that the touring exhibition market continues to be stable and successful.

 


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Portugal to slash concert VAT to 6%

The Portuguese parliament has approved a new state budget that cuts the value-added tax (VAT) on tickets for live shows from 13% to 6%.

The Orçamento Geral do Estado, or General State Budget, for 2019, which was approved by Portugal’s Assembly of the Republic yesterday (29 November), provides for a reduction in the VAT paid by promoters to 6% in the Portuguese mainland, 5% in Madeira and 4% in the Azores.

Promoters’ association APEFE (Associação de Promotores de Espetáculos, Festivais e Eventos, Association of Promoters of Shows, Festivals and Events) says in a statement the VAT cut is not only a victory for APEFE, but for the entire cultural sector “and all Portuguese”.

The reduction has also been welcomed by APEFE’s counterpart in Spain, APM, whose president Albert Salmerón says Portuguese lawmakers have recognised culture as an “engine of economic growth and social progress.”

In Spain, cultural VAT was cut to 10% from a sky-high 21% in June last year, while Italy followed suit in November.

 


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Spotify’s Vanja Primorac joins UTA for ‘music innovations’

United Talent Agency (UTA) has hired Vanja Primorac, formerly an artist marketing representative at Spotify, in the newly created role of executive for music innovations.

Based in the agency’s Los Angeles head office, Primorac is tasked with identifying and securing marketing, distribution and platform partnerships to ensure UTA’s roster “are on the cutting edge of a constantly evolving music landscape”, says the company.

“The music industry continues to be a hotbed for innovation and disruption, with new platforms and business models continually redefining the landscape,” says UTA’s chief innovation officer, Brent Weinstein. “We are excited to utilise Vanja’s experience and entrepreneurial spirit to help our clients navigate this ever-changing world, and to unlock new creative and business opportunities.”

“together we can develop innovative partnerships and campaigns that can move the needle”

At Spotify, Primorac worked with managers and labels on marketing campaigns for artists including Mumford & Sons, Calvin Harris, J. Cole, Mike Posner and AlunaGeorge.

Prior to joining the streaming company, she worked with Sean Combs to launch the rapper formerly known as Puff Daddy/Diddy/Brother Love’s Revolt TV platform.

“UTA is taking a holistic approach to their artist partnerships and I’m excited to start the next chapter of my career with the incredible team they have in place,” she comments. “It’s tricky to break through the noise in today’s competitive music landscape, and together we can develop innovative partnerships and campaigns that can move the needle.”

 


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eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE: behind the scenes of U2’s latest global smash

Since envisioning the concept for their eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE two-part arena tour in 2013, U2 and their team have had a tumultuous few years.

During that time, the band’s long-time tour manager Dennis Sheehan and stage architect Mark Fisher have both sadly passed away, and Bono had a near-death experience himself after a bike accident in New York resulted in a five-hour operation. He was back in hospital last year for another bout of surgery (the details of which the frontman has been reticent to talk about publicly).

During that time, U2 have toured the first iNNOCENCE part of their two-album series, celebrated 30 years of seminal ’87 release The Joshua Tree with a 51-date stadium run, and have just wrapped up the eXPERIENCE sequel. It’s an apt ending – the narrative of the most recent shows is themed around the complexity of life as an adult and the final journey towards the bright light.

eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE is in support of U2’s 2017 US and UK No1 album, Songs of Experience, which followed 2014’s Songs of Innocence. It has spanned 26 sold-out arena dates in North America that started in May, while the European leg ends with a rescheduled show in Berlin on 13 November. Described as their most technically complex shows to date, the tour features augmented reality, an innovative sound set-up, a revolutionary light-follow spot system and bespoke, transparent, 100-foot-long LED screens that surround a moving catwalk.

While iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE told the story of the band’s upbringing in Ireland, eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE documents their journey out into the world, facing death, and ties in a political element that centres on the death of democracy.

The narrative of the most recent shows is themed around the complexity of life as an adult and the final journey towards the bright light

The show “is more of a story, really; a very personal story,” Bono explained during one of their three Madison Square Garden gigs. “A boy tries to hold on to his innocence, fails, only to discover at the far end of experience some wisdom and some good company.”

And the concept has obviously caught the imagination: by the end of its European run, more than 924,000 people will have seen the show across 60 dates. That’s a little short of the 1,220,000 who bought tickets for 2015’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE outing, although that tour included 76 dates.

Creative direction
The plot started taking shape during a weekend in the south of France, where the band and their creative team found inspiration in shared history across a 40-year-plus career that started in high school in Dublin. Creative director Willie Williams explains: “The two stories it came down to wanting to tell were what it’s like for anybody growing up, where you feel like your bedroom is the whole world. It’s the story of how you escape from that bedroom and your house where you’re looking out the window at the world outside, trying to make sense of what’s going on. Journey two is being a grown-up in the outside world, the things that you have to face and what it takes to deal with all of that.”

The 2015 tour told the first part of the story, and the brief for the latest run was to finish it off. Williams adds: “It’s funny because at the beginning we thought it would be something to do with coming home, finding your new family or deciding where you settle ultimately. Because of some of the things that Bono went through, we realised that one way of looking at this journey home is basically death… which sounds pretty bleak!”

The European shows open with footage of cities the tour visits, shot between 1935 and 1945 whilst they were in ruins during WW2. “We wanted to make the point that because we’ve grown up in Europe and we’ve never seen war, we just assume that this is the way it’s always been. The start of the show is a reminder that we can’t take these things for granted,” says Williams. The footage also includes the MRI scans that Bono had after coming off his bike to combine the “personal and political cataclysm.”

“Because of some of the things that Bono went through, we realised that one way of looking at this journey home is basically death…”

From there starts ‘Lights of Home’ – a song that encapsulates the tour’s theme – followed by a reprise from the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE leg about growing up in Dublin. An intermission includes a graphic novel of the four band members and their journey together, followed by songs from their back catalogue, including the live debut of ‘Acrobat’ from Achtung Baby.

Bono then brings back his devil alter-ego, Mr MacPhisto, for an address to camera that’s politically themed for each city. A personal arc follows, before the refugee crisis is brought to the fore as part of ‘Summer of Love’, ending with an optimistic look at the future of Europe as born-again cities with ‘Pride’ and ‘City of Blinding Lights’.

In the US, the show opens on a personal theme with the idea of facing your own mortality using augmented reality. A series of still images play across the cinema-sized LED screen, which transform into a giant avatar version of Bono when audience members look through a custom-made app on their smartphones. The stage, which was designed by Es Devlin and Ric Lipson, appears as a giant iceberg that melts over the audience, preluding the cataclysm theme, which is enacted as a tsunami in the middle of the set with waves appearing across the screen while U2 sing ‘the End of the World’.

Naturally, the political element of the US shows centres on the reign of Donald Trump. The show ends with Bono walking towards a 3D doll-size model of the house he grew up in. He lifts the lid to find a light bulb, which appeared at the beginning of the iNNOCENCE shows, before quietly walking off stage.

 


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Karni & Saul create “magic” live visuals for Katie Melua tour

Bafta-nominated animators Karni and Saul have been enlisted to provide dynamic visuals and lighting for Katie Melua’s 2017–18 winter tour, whose UK leg kicked off at the 1,458-capacity Bournemouth Pavilion last night.

For the tour – which began at Stockholm’s Cirkus (1,650-cap.) on 24 October and closes at the Assembly Rooms (788-cap.) in Edinburgh on 13 December – Melua is joined by the Gori Women’s Choir, with whom she collaborated on the silver-selling 2016 album In Winter.

Melua previously worked with Karni and Saul on the video for the In Winter single ‘Perfect World’, which won the best animation awards at the UKMVAs and Berlin Music Video Awards. It is the director duo’s first time producing concert visuals.

“I’m always trying to strive for a more enriching, visually enticing, immersive live experience for the audience”

“Adding visuals to live concerts is a fine art, so creating the right types of film content to accompany the music requires very special sensibility and level of care,” comments Melua. “This is what I have been craving for years now, as I’m always trying to strive for a more enriching, visually enticing, immersive live experience for the audience.

“I could think of no better creative designers than the award-winning Karni and Saul to bring the wintery sounds of Gori Women’s Choir together with our world-class rhythm section, weaving everything together with a sense of marvel and wonderment…

“I first worked with Karni and Saul a few years ago, when we were creating the music video to ‘Perfect World’. That video won numerous awards around the world, with its unique animation and storytelling. I cannot wait for Karni and Saul to bring this same level of magic with me to the stage.”

 


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Robert Ashcroft to step down as PRS for Music CEO

Robert Ashcroft is to step down as chief executive of UK collection society PRS for Music at the end of December 2019, the tenth anniversary of his appointment.

“Working for PRS has been by far the most compelling and worthwhile thing I have ever done,” says Ashcroft, who came to PRS from investment consultancy Hudson Morris Associates. It has been a privilege to work on behalf of our members and I would like to thank them, our board and, above all my colleagues, for their support over the years.”

No replacement has yet been announced for Ashcroft (pictured), whose tenure has seen the introduction of a well-received new live music tariff and the launch of a joint venture with sister society PPL.

“Robert has given the organisation a decade of stability and growth”

More recently, PRS has lobbied in favour of the new EU Copyright Directive (and the controversial Article 13), which Ashcroft said following the most recent vote would contribute to a “functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content” across Europe.

Nigel Elderton, PRS chairman, comments: “Robert has given the organisation a decade of stability and growth, making it the considerable success it is today. He should be rightly proud of his legacy and the health in which he leaves PRS for Music.

“On behalf of all our members, staff and industry partners I would like to thank Robert for his service and the positive impact he has had. We wish him every success in the future.”

 


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Dino Might: On tour with Walking with Dinosaurs’ final T-rek

For a six-part TV miniseries, Walking with Dinosaurs has – much like the terrible lizards for which it’s named – had a remarkably long life. Initially airing on the BBC in 1999, Walking with Dinosaurs has spawned several television spinoffs (2001’s Walking with Beasts and 2005’s Walking with Monsters); a 2013 feature film, also called Walking with Dinosaurs; and books, video games and, perhaps most successfully, a live show, Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular.

Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular (WWD) debuted in Australasia in 2007 as Walking with Dinosaurs: The Live Experience, and has since been seen by more than nine million people in 250 cities around the world, picking up ILMC’s Best in Show 2012 award along the way.

Final T-recks
The latest, and final outing for WWD began in the UK at the Metro Radio Arena (11,000-cap.) in Newcastle, on 20 July, and is scheduled to close in Russia at St Petersburg’s Ice Palace (12,300-cap.), on 26 May 2019, although more dates are set to be announced.

The show is doing “superstar” numbers in Ireland, says Noel McHale of MCD Productions, which is promoting shows in Belfast in August/September, and Dublin in December. McHale says he anticipates selling more than 150,000 tickets over nine days (five at the SSE Arena and four at 3Arena), largely on the back of the buzz around previous WWD tours. (The production last visited Europe in 2013, although it toured North America in 2014 and Australasia the following year.)

“We’re on target to sell over 150,000 tickets, so it’s real superstar business,” McHale explains, adding that the show is “doing a lot of repeat business, as the word-of-mouth praise for the last tour is phenomenal.”

Carmen Pavlovic, CEO of Global Creatures, the Australian company behind the show, says the fact that 11 years after its debut WWD is embarking on its third world arena tour is “a testament to the strength of our production and the popularity of dinosaurs with fans all over the world.

“The dinosaurs are much easier to deal with than the touring crew, as they don’t need visas, hotels, per diems or flights…”

“The world’s fascination with dinosaurs is enduring,” Pavlovic, also executive director of the production, tells IQ. “We’re fortunate to have developed a loyal base of promoters who are excited to introduce the show to the next generation in their local markets.”

That next generation is key to WWD’s lasting popularity, suggests McHale. “There will always be a new crop of kids getting into dinosaurs as they are endlessly fascinating,” he says. “And parents who bring their kids are blown away by the sheer size and quality of the production.”

T-trucks
For the new tour, Global Creatures’ touring crew is tasked with operating, maintaining and transporting across the world a total of 18 dinosaurs, representing nine separate species. These range in size from nine ‘large’ dinosaurs, operated by a team of three (one driver, and two ‘voodoo’ puppeteers each taking either the head and tail or minor movements, such as blinking or roaring); a 7m-tall adult T-rex and two 11m brachiosaurus; and four smaller ‘suit’ dinosaurs, including two 2.5m utahraptors. (Not the raptors made famous by Jurassic Park, which were modelled on utahraptor’s smaller, not-technically-a-velociraptor, cousin deinonychus. And not actually from Utah.)

As with previous tours, historical accuracy is a key consideration for WWD’s technical team, which once again consulted with palaeontologists to ensure the appearance and behaviour of all dinosaurs match the latest scientific consensus.

“We have added rudimentary feathers to the raptors, liliensternus and T-rex, which we didn’t have on the first tour,” explains resident director Ian Waller, “as it wasn’t proved to be fact then, but now is.”

“Some hay for the herbivores, and the odd human sacrifice for the T-rex and it’s done – no sorting the M&Ms or fancy water for them”

Ferrying the 18 dinos around the planet they used to call home are Transam Trucking, who are using no less than 23 trucks – a number that’s actually down on 2012, when it was 27, says general manager/booker Nick Grace, largely due to the use of more compact lighting, sound, video and rigging designs.

No reptile dysfunction
In spite of a gruelling touring schedule – the show is doing several split weeks, which naturally leads to dino wear and tear – regular maintenance means that technical problems are mercifully rare, according to Grace. “This is tempting fate, but the dinosaurs, who receive daily maintenance, never break down,” he says. “They are much easier to deal with than the touring crew, as they don’t need visas, hotels, per diems or flights…”

As a bonus, the dinosaurs’ riders are “really quite modest,” jokes Mary Shelley-Smith, global operations director of the show’s caterer, Eat to the Beat. “Some hay for the herbivores, and the odd human sacrifice for the T-rex and it’s done – no sorting the M&Ms or fancy water for them.”

Waller, meanwhile, pays tribute to the work of the technical team, who he says quite literally do the bulk of the heavy lifting. “It is quite busy for our actors and suit performers, but the main workload is done by our technical team, who have to continually take down the show and put it back up again,” he comments. “They take the real brunt of the work.”

 


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Gaga’s Vegas residency is the Strip’s hottest ticket

It might not have started yet, but Lady Gaga’s upcoming Las Vegas residency, Enigma, is already the hottest ticket in Sin City.

Enigma, the star’s first-ever concert residency, kicks off on 28 December 2018 at the 5,200-capacity Park Theatre, at the Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. Announced in August, it is produced and promoted by Live Nation and comprises two distinct shows: Lady Gaga Enigma, showcasing Gaga’s pop hits, and Lady Gaga Jazz & Piano, featuring stripped-back versions of her songs and music from the Great American Songbook.

The show will run for a minimum of two years, with 28 dates announced so far.

Gaga is pulling in more sales for a single performance than all scheduled shows of Spears

According to Ticket Club data, the show is dominating its competition, with sale grosses outstripping Celine Dion’s eight-year residency, which closes in June 2019, and Britney Spears’s Domination show, with Gaga “pulling in more sales for a single performance than all scheduled shows of Spears”, according to the US resale site.

While Lady Gaga is currently riding high on the success of the film A Star is Born – for which she is tipped for an Oscar nomination alongside co-star Bradley Cooper – the show’s sales success is skewed by its high ticket price, with tickets for the 28–31 December shows selling for an average of US$535 on the secondary market, compared to around $330 for Spears, $277 for Dion.

Tickets for Gwen Stefani’s residency at Planet Hollywood, meanwhile, are selling for $248 apiece, with Mariah Carey’s the Butterfly Returns show pulling in $160 per ticket.

 


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Dubai Jazz Festival rounds out 2019 headliners

Alicia Keys has been announced as the third and final headliner for Dubai Jazz Festival 2019, the first edition of the long-running event under new owner Done Events.

Joining the previously announced Snow Patrol, who will headline on Wednesday 20 February, are Jamiroquai, who will top the bill on Thursday 21 February, and Alicia Keys, who takes headliner duties on Friday 22 February, the final day of the festival.

Both acts last played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013.

Three-day festival tickets for Dubai Jazz 2019 went on sale today via www.dubaijazzfest.com and Virgin Megastores across the UAE.

Dubai Jazz Festival, which celebrates its 17th edition in 2019, was acquired by Done Events, the promoter of RedFestDXB and largest events firm in the region, earlier this month.

 


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